PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's Senate president says the so-called skills gap is a "serious and growing problem" that must be addressed as part of the push to improve the sagging state economy.

Teresa Paiva Weed said Monday at the Senate's annual economic summit that the lack of qualified workers hurts the economy and hinders efforts to lower an unemployment rate that has been among the nation's highest.

Rhode Island's January jobless rate was 9.2 percent.

Paiva Weed said the skills gap demands decisive action and cited Senate leaders' "Rhode to Work" legislative plan. It calls for more investment in job training programs and adult education, more internships and apprenticeships and better coordination of existing workforce training programs.

U.S. Education Department Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier praised the plan for its "creative, aggressive action."



Shutterstock/Stephen B. Goodwin